For Andalusians, 28th February is an important date. On it, we commemorate the Día de Andalucía (Andalusia day), which was when the first referendum on autonomy was held and when we achieved the statute for Andalusia. This process was the result of popular uprisings against a colonial power that had held control over our people since the Germanic conquest of Al-Andalus. The conquest served as a model for the subsequent invasions by the Spanish empire that were perpetrated using the same methods used on our lands and on our people.
Juan Kalvellido, Tlaxcala
n the conquest of Spain, Andalusia was its first victim.
The partitioning of land among the conquistadors, their monopoly, the sole religion of the Vatican as the agent and instigator of the endeavour and the denigration of the people to the point of converting them into the mere subjects of a kingdom imposed upon them, subdued our people with unprecedented levels of poverty and humiliation and constantly threatened Madrid with revolts and popular uprisings.
But our people never forgot; they used popular culture and family memory to remember and reconstruct a society that would inevitably emerge from this.
Most notably, this was demonstrated on 4th December 1977, when close to 1.5 million Andalusians expressed their desire to achieve the statute of autonomy for which many had laid down their lives. It was a powerful affirmative act, similar to another on 4th December 1868, when Cádiz rose up and proclaimed the Federal Republic. Andalusians overcame the fear of a dictatorship that, despite the death of its caudillo, held its repressive power and control intact.
And they managed it.
The countless numbers of “collateral” victims darkened the joy we felt at a longed-for freedom, yet they were not able to quench our thirst for it. It was an historical process with as yet unresolved crimes, such as Manuel José García Caparrós, who was assassinated during a protest attended by more than 200,000 people. He was just 18 years of age.
So it was that after intense social battles we were allowed to have a referendum that was already being designed with lies and deceit. Through article 151 of the Spanish Constitution, known as the “iniciativa municipal” (municipal initiative), it was possible for Andalusia to request the fast track to access full autonomy. According to the provision, an autonomous community could initiate the fast track to access full autonomy if more than 75% of the municipalities in each province (e.g., it was not sufficient to have 80% in one province and 20% in another) of the community in question approved of the measure in an extraordinary meeting.
Each step that the Andalusian community took along the path towards autonomy saw it confronted with more legal hurdles, but each was overcome with the self-same determination.
Finally, on 28th February 1980, the referendum was held to create a new autonomous community: Andalusia. Its stipulations included the obligation that 50% of electorate in each of the eight provinces should vote in favour of autonomy. Should this figure not be reached, the referendum was to be repeated five years later, or according to article 151 of the constitution, the cities that did reach this figure could constitute an autonomous city.
Even when Rafael Escudero, the highest political representative during this process, tried to exercise his right to vote in his electoral college on the morning of 28th February 1980, he was stunned to discover that his name did not appear in the census. After multiple of twists and turns, consultations, doubts, hopes and abhorrent situations, he was finally able to vote. Seconds after inserting his voting slip into the ballot box, the president of the Junta said, “In this referendum, the dead have voted with ease, while those of us who are still alive have faced serious difficulties in doing the same”.
The irregularities in the referendum were witnessed throughout the day, and of course during the count, through which the typical vote-rigging was carried out, proclaiming that that the province of Almería had “only” reached 49% of the full census, and therefore, the referendum had been lost. The people’s reaction in the following days had its way, and eventually, the government had to accept this despite it having denied us the status of “historic” community. With the referendum on 28th February 1980, we managed to achieve our autonomy on an equal footing with other communities. And we achieved it: we had an autonomous government, the Junta of Andalusia.
Mural by Decima in Jerez de la Frontera